On the podium
MONTREAL – For the first time since 1998, more than one Canadiens player will have a chance to acquire some coveted hardware at the conclusion of the Olympic Games.
With Carey Price and P.K. Subban’s Team Canada and Max Pacioretty’s Team USA still in medal contention, the Canadiens may repeat their three-medal haul from the Nagano Winter Games, where Saku Koivu, Valeri Bure and Martin Rucinsky helped their respective countries to top-three finishes before catching a flight home to Montreal.
Returning from Japan with a bronze medal was Koivu, the newly-appointed captain of the Finnish national team. The second-time Olympian had already medaled in Lillehammer four years prior, and would end his international career with four medals (three bronze and one silver) in as many Olympic participations.
The experience of leading Team Finland on and off the ice gave the Turku native an extra dose of confidence. Koivu would take over the captaincy in Montreal the following year, establishing himself as the heart and soul of the franchise for the next decade. In thirteen seasons as a member of the Canadiens, the Finn would appear in 792 games and notch 641 points, tenth-highest in franchise history.
Valeri Bure marked his first Olympic selection for Team Russia with a silver-medal performance in Nagano. It would be his country’s best finish at a Winter Games since 1992, when a Unified Team comprised of Russians and players born in former Soviet republics captured gold in Albertville. Bure also participated in the 2002 Olympics held in Salt Lake City, Utah, winning bronze for Russia.
Bure’s best season as a Canadien came in 1995-96, his sophomore campaign. He scored 22 goals and added 20 assists in 77 games that year and would end his NHL career with 400 points in 621 games playing for Montreal, Calgary, Florida, St. Louis and Dallas.
Martin Rucinsky and the Czechs took top honours in Nagano, shutting out Bure and the Russians 1-0 in the final game of the tournament. A noted scorer during his time in Montreal, the forward chipped in three goals in six games for the Czech Republic en route to the country’s first ever gold medal finish in ice hockey at the Olympics.
Acquired from the Colorado Avalanche in 1996, Rucinsky topped the 20-goal mark on four occasions as a member of the Canadiens, including a career-high 28 goals scored in 1996-97. At a ripe 42 years of age, he is still active in professional hockey and currently plays for HC Litvinov of the Czech Extraliga.
Olympic memories: J.J. Daigneault
Olympic recap - February 19